Thursday

22nd Aug 2019

Progress made in Brexit talks, but not enough

  • On the prospect of financial commitments, Davis said: "We are not yet at the stage of specifying what these commitments are - that will have to come later". (Photo: European Commission)

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned on Thursday (28 September) that it could take months before Brexit talks reach the 'sufficient progress' threshold, to move onto the future EU-UK relationship, despite prime minister Theresa May's "constructive" speech last week.

After the fourth round of talks between the EU and the UK this week, Barnier said May's speech in Florence had created a "new dynamic" and made it possible to "some extent" to unlock talks.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

May said member states should not pay more or receive less from the EU budget because of the UK leaving the bloc, and that the country would honour its commitments made as an EU member.

But, in spite of this, Barnier said that the negotiations are "not there yet".

"We are far from being at a stage - it will take weeks, or maybe even months - where we will be able to say there has been sufficient progress on the principles of this orderly withdrawal," he told journalists at a joint press conference with the UK's negotiator, David Davis.

He also warned again that there is "no possible link" between the second phase of negotiations and separation issues, and the commitments entered into in the past.

The UK has been trying to tie the financial settlement - one of the key issues of the divorce talks - to gaining access to the EU's internal market in negotiations about the future relationship.

Barnier said that he saw "no logical and coherent link" between divorce talks and talks about a new partnership.

Nevertheless, he called the fourth round "constructive" and a shift in tone marks a possible turnaround in the talks.

On citizens' rights, Davis said the UK would incorporate the withdrawal agreement into UK law, so that EU citizens could turn to UK courts to protect their rights. He added that those already holding permanent residency would not have to apply again.

Barnier called this an important move, but said the lack of agreement on the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) remains a "stumbling block" in negotiations.

"The ECJ must play an indispensable role in this," he added.

He said that other outstanding issues remain, such as reporting benefits, unifying families, and simplified administrative procedures.

However, it is also clear to see that are still deep disagreements surrounding the financial settlement.

Last week, in her speech in Florence, May pledged that member states should not pay more or receive less from the EU budget because of the UK leaving the bloc. She also said the UK would honour commitments made as an EU member.

Davis said "we are not yet at the stage of specifying what these commitments are - that will have to come later".

Barnier said the UK had made it clear that May's first pledge would be limited up until 2019 and 2020.

This would not go far enough for the member states. Even though the EU budget period officially ends in 2020, payments still continue for years after that - for projects contracted during the budgetary period.

"For the EU, the only way to reach sufficient progress is that all commitments undertaken at 28 are honoured at 28," Barnier warned, referring to the 28 member states, which includes the UK.

Technical discussions took place on the topic of Ireland, but there still has not been a breakthrough on how to avoid a hard border.

EU leaders will discuss the progress made in the Brexit talks, but they are unlikely to give the green light to start negotiations on the future relationship and trade.

Two-year transition

Last week, May also proposed a two-year transition period for after 2019, which is when the UK leaves the EU.

Barnier said he was not surprised by the request.

Barnier's mandate needs to be changed for talks on a transition period, which could be discussed by EU leaders in October.

In the meantime, the European Parliament has published its draft resolution on Brexit which will be be adopted next week.

The draft calls on EU leaders to postpone the assessment on whether sufficient progress has been made, unless a major breakthrough happens by October.

MEPs will say that "sufficient progress has not yet been made" on the key issues of citizens' rights, Ireland and the financial settlement.

The next round of talks is scheduled for the week of 9 October.

London firms seek free trade after Brexit

Financial services firms in London are proposing a free trade deal with the EU-27 to allow access to each others' markets without restrictions. They also propose a bilateral dispute settlement system.

Barnier urges UK to come up with Brexit positions

The EU's negotiator calls on the UK government to come up with its positions on key Brexit issues ahead of the next round of talks on Monday. London is expected to do that by the end of the week.

Barnier sets price for hard Brexit

The EU Brexit negotiator warned that a customs union between the UK and EU will not be possible if the UK doesn't want to respect single market rules, and "no deal" would send the UK back to "a distant past".

Opinion

Brexit vs Grexit: The six stages of losing to the EU

Theresa May's venture seems very similar to the attempt by Alexis Tsipras in 2015 to persuade Brussels to accept his terms for the bail out - a huge negotiation failure, presented to the public as the best possible deal.

Opinion

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us